What is a Nurse Care Specialist?

As you contemplate the next step in your nursing career, you may be thinking about becoming a nurse care specialist. A specialist nurse is really any Registered Nurse (RN) who helps to take care of a specific patient population. That could cover a wide range of nursing roles and positions. Within the United States, you most commonly see the word “specialist” used in the title Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). If you look up the phrase “nurse care specialist,” most of the information you will find will be related to the work of the CNS.

Advanced Practice Nursing

A clinical nurse specialist is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). There are four types of APRNs. The other three types are nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, and certified nurse midwives. All four of these advanced practice nursing roles are specialist roles. In order to become this kind of specialist, a nurse must first become a Registered nurse (RN) through getting a degree and then taking the national licensing exam. Although one can become an RN with a two year degree, if you know you are going on for an advanced practice degree, you will need a four year degree, the Bachelor of Nursing (BSN). The BSN and RN, combined with a certain number of hours of clinical work, will enable you to get into a graduate program and specialize in an advanced area of nursing.

Roles and Importance of the CNS

Most clinical nurses specialists have a master’s degree and some even have a doctorate. A CNS provides specific kinds of expert clinical care to various types of patients. Sometimes a CNS specializes in a particular population or in a particular kind of disease. For example, a CNA may be trained to work with elderly people (geriatrics) or with patients who have cancer (oncology). At other times, their specialty training may be focused on a particular health care setting, such as an emergency department or intensive care unit. They may also be trained with a specific kind of care in mind, such as rehabilitative care. The different types of focus are almost endless.

According to the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists (NACNS) about 69,000 nurses in the U.S. are currently qualified to work as a CNS. Some of those nurses are also qualified to work as nurse practitioners. Nursing specialists play an important role in healthcare delivery since their expertise and skill helps cut down on how long patients need to stay in the hospital, how often they need to visit emergency departments, and other issues that help to reduce the overall costs of healthcare while also improving the experience of patients in and out of the hospital.

Related Resource: Become a Nurse Manager

Becoming a nursing specialist of any sort takes a good deal of time and effort, but it provides you with the opportunity to truly help patients and to advance your nursing career in important, long-term ways. If you think you might want to become a nurse care specialist, it will be important to think through goals for your education and to consider the type of population and setting in which you hope to make a difference.